If you want your lats to grow, there is only one exercise that you need to know: pull-ups. While it looks easy enough, pull-ups are tough to do. The mechanical advantage is poor even when you are in good position. And cheating on your reps won’t give you the results you want. You need to try and go the whole length for every rep.
Pull-ups also require the contribution of dozens of smaller, contributing muscles. This means that consistent training will lead to rapid strength gains in the short term and more overall muscle gains as you go forward. For the lats of your dreams, do these 5 exercises regularly. When you start, it does not matter how many you’re able to do as long as you maintain your form.
1. Wide-Grip Pull-Up
Muscles Worked: Upper lats, teres major
This exercise targets the lats from top to bottom but really emphasizes the top third, which makes it ideal as a width-builder. Due to the wide grip, the range of motion is often shorter than most pulls. To make the most of this exercise, get as many reps as you can pulling as high as you can on each rep.
Your goal should be to get your upper chest as close to the bar as possible before squeezing your shoulder blades together. Because your arm angle stays pretty open during this move, the contribution from the biceps is minimized.
2. Shoulder-Width Pull-up
Muscles Worked: Upper-middle lats, rhomboids, rear delts
This variation calls into play your rhomboids, rear delts, and even the brachialis and brachioradialis to complete each rep. Because your hands are spaced more narrowly, this move allows for a longer range of motion.
This means that the vertical emphasis of the pull starts to shift south to your lower lats, even if the upper lats remain the primary movers. Make sure you go all the way down, fully extending your arms and maximize this exercise for its tremendous strength challenge.
3. Kipping Pull-up
Muscles Worked: Upper lats, teres major, biceps brachii
Originally, this move was designed to help teach the body how to use momentum in climbing or gymnastics but due to an increasing interest in CrossFit, it has become a mainstay of many conditioning programs.
While the lats and upper back get a workout as they initiate the movement, performing these early on will only enforce bad form and reduce your ability for good solid strength exercises later in your workout. This is because the ballistic nature will both create a pump and instigate fatigue.
Muscles Worked: Lower lats, rhomboids, biceps brachii
The underhand grip used in chin-ups will activate your biceps muscles more than in any of the other pull-up variations because your elbows remain close to your body and the range of motion is significantly longer than with other pulls.
The lats fire from top to bottom on this move as you pull with the upper portion of lats at the beginning of the movement when arms are fully extended and then down through the lower lats as you reach the top position. The movement also targets the mid-back, traps, and rhomboids, making this exercise one of the very best for overall back development.
It may be one of the easier moves of the bunch because it involves so many muscles at that optimize mechanic positioning for pulling. A well-rounded back routine includes both overhand and underhand pull-ups.
5. Neutral-Grip Pull-up
Muscles Worked: Lower lats, rhomboids, traps, brachialis
This move provides a longer range of motion which helps you work the lats thoroughly as well as the traps and upper back muscles such as the rhomboids. You also get strong biceps activation with emphasis on the brachioradialis muscle.
Using a wide-grip will make this tougher as your mechanical advantage is seriously decreased. But the wide grip will reduce the contribution by the biceps, increase rear deltoid activation, and give more flare to your wings.